- Education and Training: networking
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives, feasibility study, market study
- Sustainable Communities: community development, food hubs, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, partnerships
Vital Communities will work with farmers to address a continuing challenge to farm growth in the Upper
Connecticut River Valley (Upper Valley) region of New Hampshire and Vermont. According to our 2014 Local
Foods Market Assessment, 56% of 116 farmers surveyed seek increased direct-to-consumer sales, yet
established channels are no longer ensuring consistent income growth. One recommendation from the
assessment was to “explore creative solutions to capital and infrastructure limitations.” In response, farmers have
begun to envision a unique year-round direct-sales outlet with a strong community engagement focus, what we
have begun calling a modern grange.
Farmers have asked Vital Communities to support creation of this new model by facilitating conversations among
interested farmers while providing educational workshops to determine mission, organizational structure, and
business model. Farmers are excited about a hybrid co-op/grange/farmers market that could eventually include
aggregation and gleaning hubs, a commercial kitchen for value-added processing, shared winter crop storage,
and more. SARE funding would leverage Vital Communities’ strength as a neutral convener and trusted farm
service provider to support farmers in their desire to develop a collaborative space that would increase sales and
strengthen connections to the wider community.
Our goal for the granting period would be to conduct a SWOT analysis and produce a mission and work plan for
moving the modern grange concept from casual conversation at farmers markets to a blueprint for a unique
farmer-owned and operated community market and operations facility.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our longer term goal is to define and launch the modern grange. The goal for this grant is to determine feasibility
based on a SWOT analysis, assessment of farmer capacity and commitment, and education about what such a
project would require. Questions we will answer include
• How should grange stakeholders identify and prioritize function to ensure success at each stage of
• What skills and resources are needed to launch this project?
• What is the most viable business structure for the grange – a co-op? Nonprofit? For profit?
• What is the grange’s mission?
• How would the grange interface with existing farmers markets and farmer commitments?
• How will grange stakeholders move from planning to realization?